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The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) Regulations 2021

Who does this apply to?

These Regulations apply to those who are responsible for a relevant place (see below); this includes the owner, proprietor, tenant or manager of the relevant place.

When did it change?

These Regulations came into force at 4am on 30 November 2021.

What does it mean?

This Statutory Instrument makes provision for public health measures to ensure a proportionate and appropriate response to the public health risks posed by the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England, which causes the disease COVID-19.

The Instrument makes this provision by requiring members of the public to wear face coverings indoors in a number of relevant places including:

  • Whilst inside certain indoor settings including shops, shopping centres, banks, transports hubs.

  • When using public transport services, in England, except in limited cases.

Under the Regulations, a person is using a public transport service at any time when they are boarding a public transport vehicle, or they are (whether or not for the purposes of travel) on board a public transport vehicle. Transport workers are exempt from having to wear face coverings.

In the Regulations, a “relevant place” means:

  • Any premises listed in Part 1 of the Schedule which is indoors.

  • Any part of any premises listed in Part 1 of the Schedule which is indoors.

  • Any transport hub, or any part of a transport hub, which is indoors. A “transport hub” means any premises used as a station, terminal, port or other similar premises from or to which a public transport service operates.

Exclusions are set out in Part 2 of the Schedule.

Regulations 3(1) sets out the requirement to wear a face covering in a relevant place.

Regulation 4 (1) requires a person to wear a face covering on public transport. In both cases, the requirement is subject to any reasonable excuse that the person has for not wearing one. Regulation 5 provides a non-exhaustive list of what may constitute a “reasonable excuse” for the purposes.

The responsible person is required, under Regulation 6, to display a notice in a relevant place or public transport vehicle stating that any person present in that setting is required to wear a face covering unless exempt. Alternatively, the responsible person may take other measures to ensure that people entering a relevant place or boarding a public transport vehicle is given this information (eg an announcement over the public address system).

The Instrument includes provision that a person who contravenes the requirements to wear a face covering or fails to comply with a direction under Regulation 9 (Enforcement Requirements) commits an offence, punishable on summary conviction by a fine.

The Regulations will expire at the end of 20 December 2021.

What’s changed?

The amendments to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (“the 1984 Act”) made by the 2008 Act comprehensively modernised the legal framework for health protection. Part 2A of the 1984 Act, as inserted by the 2008 Act, takes an “all hazards” approach to health protection, where the criterion for action is based on the potential of an infection or contamination to present significant harm to humans, rather than on specific infectious diseases.

On 14 September, the Government published the ‘COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan’. The Plan set out the Government’s approach to sustaining progress made in fighting the virus and returning to normal, while also ensuring the NHS would not come under unsustainable pressure.

During the week commencing 22 November 2021 the UK Government became aware of a new coronavirus variant of concern subsequently labelled Omicron by the World Health Organisation. There is concern that the mutations this variant carries may result in increased transmission and/or result in reduced vaccine efficacy, though due to the emerging nature of this issue, the extent to which these are the case is not yet clear. As a result, the Government has, as a precaution, implemented a range of targeted and proportionate measures to reduce transmission whilst the Omicron variant is investigated, one of which is to reintroduce the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport.

The Regulations are available here. An explanatory memorandum is also available; click here.

Parliament November 2021


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